Tennessee Lady Vols win at No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks: 3 takeaways

The Tennessee Lady Vols rebounded from Thursday’s loss to defeat the Gamecocks. Here are three takeaways from the women’s basketball Volunteers’ victory.

If not for a last-minute overtime collapse, the Tennessee Lady Vols would be undefeated right now and sitting very pretty. However, Thursday night’s heartbreaking loss to the Texas A&M Aggies cost them that. So they rebounded Sunday by dominating the South Carolina Gamecocks 86-70 in their gym.

Holly Warlick’s team took advantage of a Gamecocks team missing two-time SEC Player of the Year A’ja Wilson. They jumped out to a 21-14 first quarter lead and never looked back.

With the win, Tennessee improves to 16-1 and 4-1 in the SEC. Meanwhile, South Carolina falls to 14-3 and 3-2 in the conference. The two will meet again in Knoxville for their final regular game of the year.

Dawn Staley will definitely hope to have Wilson back by then. That definitely taints what happened in this game. Here are three takeaways from the Tennessee Lady Vols’ win.

1. Tennessee clearly capitalized on A’ja Wilson’s absence. 

There’s just no way around this. The Tennessee Lady Vols not having to deal with A’ja Wilson gave them a huge advantage under the basket. And that allowed Mercedes Russell to go 7-of-9 inside with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Jaime Nared added scoring inside two, making up for her continued outside shooting slump to still get 19 points. And the team outrebounded South Carolina 41-29. That just wouldn’t happen with Wilson on the court, so we had to bring it up. However, there are other reasons Tennessee won too, so we have to give credit there.

2. The Tennessee Lady Vols dominated in perimeter scoring.

Yes, Wilson was not in the game. But the Gamecocks still had the same number of offensive rebounds with 14. The biggest reason Tennessee outrebounded South Carolina was because they shot better from the outside. Tennessee was 56 percent from the field and 50 percent from three. Meanwhile, South Carolina shot 26.7 percent from three. Now, Wilson’s absence did have an impact on this since it forced Staley’s players to play more inside on her zone defense. And it allowed Tennessee to be more aggressive on defense. But you still can’t argue with those numbers. There’s one perimeter number, though, that’s still an issue. And we finish with that.

3. Turnovers were once again a huge problem.

South Carolina did not have its best player and runs a zone defense. But the Tennessee Lady Vols still struggled to cut down on turnovers. They had 18 on the night. Evina Westbrook somewhat bounced back from her awful performance last week, but she still made some mistakes with the ball (and she missed four free throws). But in this game, Jaime Nared was a big problem with six turnovers. Part of that came with being aggressive, but it was still a problem. Simply put, the Tennessee Lady Vols have been lucky not to cost themselves yet for not taking care of the ball. But it won’t last forever.